An Extra Low-mass Harmonic Radar Transponder for Insect Tracking Applications

The design, construction, and performance of a harmonic radar transponder with a total mass of less than 500 μg is presented. The transponder is intended for insect tracking applications and consists of very fine wire and a small Schottky diode. It is designed for fundamental and harmonic frequencies of 10 GHz and 20 GHz, respectively. Compared to existing harmonic radar transponders, this transponder is easy to construct because the loop inductor can be implemented with a simple bend in the dipole conductor without degrading performance. Through careful design optimization, the conversion loss of the transponder is not impacted by the measures taken to minimize its mass. The expected harmonic power versus the transmitted power is estimated based on the link analysis between the transmitter and receiver of the radar, with the link analysis itself being performed via calculation, harmonic balance simulation, and full-wave simulation. The link analysis simulation predicted a received power of -66.4 dBm for a transmitted power of +22 dBm and a range of 2.4 m. The measured received power level at the harmonic frequency, obtained from the broadside of the transponder in an anechoic test chamber, is approximately -70 dBm, which agrees well with the link analysis. Simulated and measured transponder radiation patterns are also compared and show good agreement. Low-mass transponders such as this enable tracking of smaller insects without reducing their lifespan or compromising their ability to fly at natural altitudes and ranges.